Personnel Flying

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I originally wanted to research 'Walking with Dinsosaurs'. The concept of the show comes from the BBC television series and features fifteen life sized, realistic dinosaurs. Stage Technologies automated a huge flying prehistoric bird controlled with big tow winches from an Acrobat control desk. I was quite interested in trying to receate this and thought it would be very interesting. However, as the show is so huge, it only takes place in arenas, it would be too big for the Ath. Although the concept could be adapted and done to a smaller scale, I thought it would be more beneficial to research something I could perhaps work with one day. I then decided to research flying people on stage. Unfortunately, I have yet to see a performance that uses personnel flying, but I did find some good examples on the internet that caught my interest. I want to achieve a complex flying effect, with more than one person flying and not just flying up and down. I would like to do something similar to the 'Wizard of Oz' flying effect or 'The Matrix' effect which can be found on the 'zfxflying' website.

Fyling Methods

'Pendulum' Flying

This style of flying is usually associated with Panto and performances such as 'Peter Pan' and has even made it into Kung Fu movies. It is a mechanical purchase device rigged in the grid. It is operated by hauling a line that in turn winds a windlass that takes up the lifting wire rope. For this method to work correctly, there must be a pulley mounted on the grid. It is mounted between two points: the take off point and the desired landing position. The offstage operator can control the amount of pendulum swing by lifting and lowering the flyer.

'Tracking Trolley'

This type of flying uses a tracking trolley with a winch or purchase system rigged to it and is used for sustained flight sequences, often with two people flying together. It is also used in ellaborate flying ballets. A purchase system is rigged on the end of a wire rope that passes over a trolley and down to the flyer. The trolley can be tracked across stage much like a scenery carrier on a tab track tp provide the movement of the flyer and the winch provides the lift and lower. Using a number of tracks together can produce convincing flying effects, especially when there are several flyers moving in opposite directions.

The flyer is attached by either a single flywire or by two wires, one at each hip. This is known as a somersault rig and allows the flyer to control his centre of gravity by moving his head or feet so that horizintal flight and somersaults are possible.

Graceful transitions from walking to stepping into the air is possible with careful practice. Lighting and scenery are also used to compliment the effect.

Both these methods of flying create excellent effects on stage and either one would be ideal to use. Depending on the effect you are trying to create should influence which method you decide to use:

  • Pendulum flying is much cheaper and can be done with minimum rigging and equipment. It can be used to fly one person at a time and for more simple techniques.
  • The tracking trolley method is more expensive to install but allows you to produce more complicated flying sequences and fly more than one person at a time.

As I want to create a flying effect similar to 'The Wizard of Oz' storm scene, I would choose to work with the 'Tracking Trolley' method.


The equipment required to install the tracking trolley system is listed below.

  • track
  • lift control
  • flying machine
  • traverse control
  • traverse line
  • trolley
  • lifting line
  • fly wire
  • winch

These are the main components of this particular flying system but you will also require other rigging equipment. The following is a list of companies where you can purchase equipment or simply research it.


Installing a flying system is a very expensive thing and can cost up to thousands. Depending on where you purchase your equipment from will effect your final costing as some companies prices differ.

The above web sites will be able to give you the costing for most of the equipment listed; the following will be able to help you with other requirements such as winches.


It is important to select the correct winch for your effect. Motor winches are for flying heavier people and at a greater hight. You must think about speed and capacity. If using a motorised winch I would use one that has a variable speed. A winch with a variable speed can travel at less than a foot per minute can also travel at several hundred feet per minute in the next cue. The capacity of the winch would have to be rated to hold up to two or more people at any on time. You must also take into account the saftey factor of flying people which has a ratio of 12:1.

Manual winches are for lighter weights and for an effect which does not go too high. You can also be more creative with manual winches. Again, they will have to be rated for their capacity. The prices can range from £58:00 to £174:00. More prices can be found here: Anglia Handling Services Ltd.

Many companies can build winches to the requirements of the effect you are trying to achieve. Companies such as Stage Technologies, Flying BY Foy and Kinesys

The overall costing of such an installment depends on many things; the venue, the effect you want to achieve, which type of winch you use.


This image is from An Introduction to Rigging in the Entertainment Industry by Chris Higgs.

This is the best drawing I could find (and draw) that best illustates the components and the set up of the tracking trolley system.


Health & Safety

It is very important that the flyer and operator know the equipment well. The operators must have good communication with each other and have rehearsed severl times, not only to create a spectacular effect but to ensure everbody's saftey (especially the flyers!). In a situation where the flyer may not be hooked into their harness properly or if something else goes wrong, there should be a back up plan. Which is why communication between flyers and operators is very important. It is also good to have other people watching and looking out for anything, eg. clear flight path.


Walking With Dinosaurs


Bishop Lifting Products Inc.

Rope Assemblies

SWR- wire rope & fittings

Bishop Lifting Products Inc.

Stage Technologies

Flying By Foy

Lift, Turn, Move


Anglia Handling Services Ltd.

An Introduction To Rigging In The Entertainment Industry - Chris Higgs

Rigging System Design Guide- JRClancy